Birds Building a Nest

In November 2009, I made a wedding present for my sister using the scroll saw. I wanted a nature theme, and did some research. One idea was a "tree of life" image with a number of images hidden in the branches. While drawing branches in the same of various things, we added some birds, and the idea that finally stuck was two birds building a nest. Here's the very first sketch.

You can click on any of the pictures below to see a larger version, then return by pressing the Back button.

Then I made a full size sketch to work out some of the details and imagine what size it should be.

At first I was going to put their names on it, but I decided against it. I spend much of my life building computer chips, which are interesting to people for about 5 years, tops. One thing that appeals to me about woodworking, and art in general, is that you can create something that can outlast you. I wanted to make something that she would be able to give to her children one day, and for it to be just as relevant. So--no names.

Next I started drawing the real design with pencil on paper, starting with the branch and nest. The nest texture is made from a number of cuts that are just the width of the scroll saw blade. There's always going to be a little round hole at the end of each cut because you have to drill a hole to get the scroll saw blade to go through. With a scroll saw design, you always have to think, "if I cut here, will it fall apart?" If any of those lines went all the way across the nest, the top would fall off. I found lots of bird pictures. I drew/traced the outlines and decided where to cut, to show the bird features. I scanned, edited in Photoshop, and printed a few times to clean a few things up and make it the right size.

Here is the final version on paper, ready to cut.

Then you just tape the paper to the wood and start cutting. For any interior cut, drill a tiny hole first, put the blade through, and then cut out the hole. The next picture shows several holes already cut out.

Here you can see the wood sitting on the scroll saw table. The blade is the black vertical line, 1/16" wide with cutting teeth on the front side. The saw moves it up and down, sort of like a sewing machine, and you slide the wood forward and backward and around on the table while the blade does its work. Because the blade is so small, it's easy to cut round shapes, or pretty much any shape you like.

Now all the cuts are done.

I mounted it to a flat rectangle of oak with rounded edges, and sprayed it with polyurethane. All done!